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Estyn Pandemic may help to strengthen Welsh education in the longer term

Lessons learnt from this unusual and challenging year could help to strengthen aspects of Welsh education and training in the longer term, according to the Chief Inspector in his Annual Report 2019-20 published today.

A greater focus on learners’ wellbeing, resilience and independence, more experience of digital learning, and closer communication with families can put schools in a better place to prepare for the Curriculum for Wales.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says

It has been a very difficult year for learners and an anxious one for their families. The complex challenges of the pandemic have required leaders and staff across education and training to make decisions in difficult circumstances and to work in new ways. They have risen well to the challenge, and there has been an increased appreciation of their work and of the importance of pupils attending school.

The pandemic has created the need to innovate. The period of learning from home has meant that all schools have had to think afresh about how pupils learn and how face-to-face teaching can best promote resilience and independent learning skills.

The inspectorate has also published findings from its engagement work with schools and other providers during this term. Meilyr Rowlands continues,

The long-term impact of this crisis could strengthen preparation for the Curriculum for Wales. In the meantime, teachers have assessed the progress of pupils returning to school this autumn. Some have fared well, but the skills of many may have regressed, including in literacy and numeracy. Helping learners, particularly the vulnerable and disadvantaged, to catch up will be a major task for the education and training system for the future. My annual report helps to identify the good practice developed during this time.

Schools and other education and training providers have prioritised the wellbeing of their learners during the pandemic, including their physical and mental health. The Chief Inspector’s Annual Report highlights Woodlands Community Primary School, Torfaen, which already uses a range of strategies to support pupils’ emotional wellbeing by building resilience and developing their self-esteem and social skills. The school has seen clear improvements in attendance, behaviour and pupil achievement as a result.

The report also presents findings from inspections held in the first part of the academic year across schools, colleges and other providers. Prior to the pandemic about three-fifths of planned inspections for the academic year took place. Overall, a similar picture to that of recent years emerges from this period. Standards are good or better in around eight-in-ten primary schools and in just over half of secondary schools.